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July 3, 2023 63 mins

Can grief be an opportunity for growth and self-understanding?

The answer, of course, is yes: but it’s a bit more complex than that. This week, author, philanthropist, activist Rachel Cargle on survival optimism, the resilience narrative, and why questioning the stories you tell yourself - with curiosity and kindness - is a powerful path of healing. 


In this episode we cover: 

  • How was grief modeled for you growing up, and how does that affect later grief?
  • Can your memory of childhood grief be…. entirely wrong? (or at least, inaccurate)
  • Can you do grief wrong? 
  • The difference between curiosity and judgment
  • Is it ok to feel relieved when a sick person dies? 
  • Rachel’s new book, A Renaissance of Our Own


Want to talk with Megan directly? Join our patreon community for live monthly Q&A sessions: your questions, answered.

Related episodes:

Gabor Mate on why we celebrate trauma, aka: resilience 

Illustrator Aubrey Hirsch on the power of storytelling as an act of healing


Notable quotes: 

“It's a practice of kindness to ourselves when we acknowledge and lean into the both/and… So when I feel shame about the relief I feel because I no longer have this sick mother to worry about, I can actually rest with that relief because I know that probably in about 2.5 days I'm going to be on the floor crying about the fact that she's not here. It’s both/and.” - Rachel Cargle


“(As) I really look at my childhood and have to dust some things off, (I’m) also cleaning off the spaces where good things are. You're not just going to the box of bones and figuring out all the hard, terrible things that happened in your childhood.” - Rachel Cargle

About our guest:

Rachel Cargle is a writer, entrepreneur and philanthropic innovator. Her new memoir, A Renaissance of Our Own, centers the reimagining of womanhood, solidarity and self. In 2018 she founded The Loveland Foundation, Inc., a non-profit offering free therapy to Black women and girls.  She’s also the founder of Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre – a literacy space designed to amplify, celebrate and honor the work of writers who are often excluded from traditional cultural, social and academic canons.  For more on her many endeavors, visit


About Megan: 

Psychotherapist and bestselling author Megan Devine is recognized as one of today’s most insightful and original voices on grief, from life-altering losses to the everyday grief that we don’t call grief. She helms a consulting practice in Los Angeles and serves as an organizational consultant for the healthcare and human resources industries. 

The best-selling book on grief in over a decade, Megan’s It’s Ok that You’re Not OK, is a global phenomenon that has been translated into more than 25 languages. Her celebrated animations and explainers have garnered over 75 million views and are used in training programs around the world.


Additional resources:

Rachel’s book - A Renaissance of Our Own


The Loveland Foundation, Inc. - houses a collection of Rachel’s social ventures 


The Great Unlearn, a self-paced, donation-based learning community


The Great Unlearn for Young Learners – an online learning space for young folks launching in 2022


Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre - an innovative literacy space designed to amplify, celebrate and honor the work of writers who are often excluded from traditional cultural, social and academic canons.


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
I started to question all the narrative I'd been telling myself,
Like what else have I been moving through the world?
What stories do I usually tell when people ask me
about my life? And how true are they? And I
got the chance to ask my mom a lot of
questions about what I understood to be true about myself,
about her, about my dad, about my family, and some
things just absolutely were not true.

Speaker 2 (00:20):
This is It's okay that you're not okay, and I'm
your host, Megan Divine. This week on the show, The
Incredible Magical, Rachel Cargle on the time travel portal that
grief opens up in your life and the opportunity for healing, growth,
and curiosity alongside whatever pain you're in. Settle In, friends,

Rachel Cargle coming up right after this first break before
we get started, one quick note. While we cover a
lot of emotional relational territory in each and every episode,
this show is not a substitute for skilled support with

a licensed mental health provider or for professional supervision related
to your work. Hey, friends, I get to talk with
the most amazing people because of this show. It is
a lot of work to bring these conversations to you.
But every time I sit down in front of the
microphone and get a chance to connect with someone whose work,

whose being I have loved and admired from afar, It's
just so special. Rachel Cargle is a writer, entrepreneur, and
philanthropic innovator. Her new memoir, A Renaissance of Our Own
is a reimagining of womanhood, solidarity, and self and explores

one of my very favorite topics, how we are in
relationship with ourselves and with each other. In twenty eighteen,
she founded the Loveland Foundation, a nonprofit offering free therapy
to Black women and girls. Rachel is also the founder
of Elizabeth's Bookshop and Writing Center, a literacy space designed
to amplify, celebrate, and honor the work of writers who

are often excluded from traditional, cultural, social, and academic canons. Honestly,
Rachel has created so many things and opened so many
important and powerful conversations it would take me most of
the show to list them all. I want to get
right into this conversation, but some of the top themes
in our conversation this week, Rachel and I get into

this really nuanced discussion of childhood grief and how it
intersects with any new loss in your life. I hear
this sort of stuff a lot, right, like when your
parent dies, or a friend dies, somebody close to you dies,
and people say, oh, you're only having a hard time
now because you have all of this unhealed grief and
trauma in your past, right, And it's always said with

that sort of smarmy, snarky, condescending tone. Right, it's such
toxic shaming trash. Rachel and I really get into the
difference between judgment and curiosity here and how, yes, older
grief really can come back around, but it's not wrong
that that happens. It's not a sign that you didn't

work hard enough to process your life. We get into
what Rachel calls her childhood's survival optimism and how that
relates to a really sort of surface unnuanced idea of resilience.
We talk about her father's death when she was a
child and her mom's recent death and why Rachel says
she feels grateful for the chance to understand herself in

this new time of her life and that it's terrifying
at the very same time. We get into a lot
of both, and in this conversation, I bet this episode
is going to give you a whole lot of aha moments.
I want to hear about them, I really do, so
be sure to comment on social media posts with clips

of the episode and leave a review of the show
wherever you get your podcasts. Reviews are a great way
to tell me how the season's guests are affecting you,
and it encourages others to listen. So this is like
a win win for everybody. All Right, on with the
show with this week's guest, Rachel Cargle. Rachel, I am

so excited to have you here with me today, so
thank you for making the time.

Speaker 1 (04:24):
I'm excited to be chatting with you as well.

Speaker 2 (04:26):
So I've known your work for a while, and one
of the things that has drawn me in recently is
you speaking about your mom's illness, the last few weeks
of her life and her death. So if it's okay
with you, there are so many places we could start
our conversation, but I'd love to start with your mom.

Speaker 1 (04:45):
Yeah, my mom. She passed away on November fourth of
twenty twenty two, and it has surprisingly been such a
big heart of my work. You know, obviously it shows
up in the day to day, in our bodies, in

the way that we can pay attention or not what
we pay attention to grief and death. Particularly in my experience,
the death of a parent just completely gives you a
new lens, a new calibration in the world. So since
that time, it has been just an unfolding of a
new version of myself, that is a woman in the

world without her mother. And it's been such a particular
experience so far.

Speaker 2 (05:40):
You wrote the way she raised me was an ongoing
invitation to see what I was capable of.

Speaker 1 (05:47):
Yeah, that's very true, and I feel so grateful for
that because I see all the ways it shows up
for me now. I've been talking a lot about the
gifts of grieving, and there's the obvious devastation and excruciating
experience of moving through life after loss, but I've also

seen so many gifts of it, including seeing all the
ways that my mother is in me without her being here,
Because then I'd be like, oh, you know, it's something
she just said recently, or something she just reminded me of,
Or I noticed that I rest my hands the way
my mom rested her hands. I noticed that I make
the same noise my mom used to make when she

would yawn. When I yawn, sometimes I look in the
mirror and I see her face in my face, and
it is really cool, particularly the quote you mentioned about
how she really always pushed me to see what I
was capable of. And I'm seeing now the ways that
I do that every day, and that was planted by her.

Speaker 2 (06:56):
So many good structural, foundational self things, it sounds like,
really came through your relationship with your mom.

Speaker 1 (07:04):
Yeah, you know, my mom had a disability, so she
never worked, not that disability means not working, but with
her particular disability as well as her raising me and
many other children who weren't necessarily my siblings, but people
she just cared for or she ended up adopting, she
stayed home. And that meant I spent a lot of

time with my mom. And I'm realizing as I talked
to more and more friends that wasn't their experience. I
don't remember ever having a babysitter. I don't. I can't
name or have reference to any one time of being
babysat by someone, aside from like spending time with my
grandma or my older sisters keeping me for something for
my mom to go out for a run. So I

really spent a lot of time with my mother, for
better and for worse, And some of the for better
is that we had a lot of time for her
to seed into me the things that she found to
be important, and I really value now getting to see
the fruits of that within me, as well as the
things that she seated in me that don't resonate with me,

and me being able to say, oh, that was mom, Okay,
I can let that go. That isn't that's not mine
to carry.

Speaker 2 (08:13):
Yeah, to see the me and the not me.

Speaker 1 (08:16):
Yeah, Yeah, that's something particular. That's a particular gift that
comes with losing someone, because grief is also an identity
crisis of who am I when I'm not in direct
relationship with that person here and now in the same
way I've always been. And I think there's some beautiful
realizations about who we are to ourselves as well as

the celebration of who we were to the person that
we lost. And I think that that has been a
really wonderful unfolding as well to witness how.

Speaker 2 (08:49):
Was grief model for you growing up?

Speaker 1 (08:51):
It wasn't. It wasn't at all, And I'm really struggling
with it now. I lost my father when I was eleven.
I was closer to my dad than I was to
my mom at that time. And it also is an
adulthood where you recognize how much you romanticize things, and
so I think I romanticized my dad a lot, because
of course I was with my mom all the time,
and I was like, Oh, my dad's so much more fun.

And I'm sure he got to be the fun one
because he wasn't doing all the day to day things
with me. But I'll say that after he passed, I
just didn't have time to grieve. I remember he was
sick for a long time before he passed away too.
It wasn't sudden or anything. And when he passed he
was at a hospital and they called the house to

say that he had passed away. And I answered the
phone and they just told me. They didn't ask for
my mom or anything. They were just like, hi, this
is the hospital calling to say that Larry Brooks has died.
And I was like, okay. I was eleven years old.
My mom was upstairs sleeping in the bed. As I said,
my mom had polio, so she couldn't run downstairs and
pick up the phone. I was going to be the
one who was going to pick up the phone regardless.

But just thinking of that now as an adult, how
hard that must have been me. And I remember still
going to soccer camp the next day and thinking I
want to go, and my mom taking me and letting
me go, and how life just went on after that.

Really I didn't have time or space to grieve. There
were so many other fires that my mom had to
be putting out. I was always the most functional of
anyone else in our home, and so I was either
being a involuntary co parent to a lot of the
kids she was raising, or I just wasn't getting the
support that I needed because I was the most functioning,
so I was the least to be concerned about, and

so I really didn't have the guidance that was necessary
as a child to acknowledge feelings, feel the feelings, and
ultimately grieve. And so right now at thirty four, with
my mother passing, I'm invested in this also being a
space to be in relationship with the feelings that never

got to have a voice or a space during my
father's passing as well. So that lack of that lack
of model of grieving, I am now redefining or I
should say, defining what grief will look like for me
in my life and in my body and in my
world and in my work. And I feel very, very

very grateful to have the time and space and intention
to that, because I know so many of us who
are grieving don't.

Speaker 2 (11:32):
Yeah. As I was sort of reading through your collected
works and articles and listening to you speak getting ready
for our time here together, you said something about that
you're only now starting to look at the pain points
of your childhood. And this is true, right, like new
fresh loss intersects with older losses, and I like, as

a therapist, I mean think sometimes the language can be
really shaming and punitive. We're like, oh, that's coming up
because you didn't deal with it, instead of Wow, that's interesting.
Like all of these channels of love and relatedness, they
go back and forth in us, like curiosity instead of
condemnation for the things that we had to survive and
the models that we saw. But I love what you

said about this, this childhood loss and childhood grief coming
back and intersecting. You said, the consciousness of this in
the midst of grief has thrust me into an unexpected
era of reckoning and healing. I'm honored and grateful for
the chance to understand myself and it's terrifying all at
the same time.

Speaker 1 (12:34):
You know, we have so many moments like this in
our world. Imagine how we must have felt learning how
to walk.

Speaker 2 (12:38):
Imagine terrifying and exciting to school for.

Speaker 1 (12:42):
The first time. You know, we don't always remember those feelings,
but it's things that we've had to come up against.
And when we're younger, the exciting part of it gets
more attention, Like you're going to school for the first time,
you're walking, and it's celebrated. But as you get older
and there's less celebration of firsts or the less we
often give us ourselves less room to grow or develop,

to be new, to learn something new. It becomes this judgment,
like you said, this lack of curiosity, this condemnation for
how come you didn't know? How come you haven't figured
it out? And so I really started having a consciousness
about how my childhood might have played into things, maybe
about a year before my mom passed, so I was
able to ask her a few questions that gave me,

you know, gave me some tools to continue to build
my pathway towards my healing, which I'm certainly still in
the beginning phases and in the midst of now. But
I've been thinking about a quote that says, you know,
death isn't an end of life, It's a part of life.
And so this cycle, this moving towards another part of

life and it not just being this end date also
is making me think about obviously the visual of it
seeing my mother actually away, but also the journey towards healing,
and how much I would have loved for my mom
to continue healing up until the very moment. It's worth
it up until the very moment for you to have clarity,
for you to have consideration. And I'm grateful for being

ushered into this journey. I'm grateful for what my mom
was able to add. I'm grateful for going through her
stuff and finding small things that you know, just this
morning I was going through I'm back in Ohio in
my hometown. This is my first time back since my
mom passed, and this is my first time going through
a lot of the documents, and I found a college
transcript from my mom when she was in college. And

what I found was and my mom didn't graduate She
only did one semester and her grade in early child development,
which is what she was studying. But it was like
an early child development course, and it's what my mom loved.
Like my mom loved kids. If you were under the
age of seven, you were her favorite person, regardless of
who you are, where you were. And even in the

week of her passing, she kept going in and out
of consciousness, and whenever she'd come out, she'd say, where's
that room with all the kids? Like, I really think
her heaven is just a room full of kids, because
she kept mentioning that, and I think she was kind
of going in and out of it or like previewing it,
and so I really think that that was her thing.
But anyways, on her transcript, she got an F in
early childhood Development. And what I love about that is

that my mom still stayed true to the thing that
she loved even if the authority that be didn't give
her a good grade in it, and it also or
she didn't do the work to get a good grade
in it. But also how hard she pushed me about
grades and things and how I want to be like,
we have some things to talk about. You actually got

an F. You and you like, were fine and you
moved on. And so these this healing comes from knowledge.
It's a framework that I use in my anti racism work. Knowledge, empathy,
and action equals all. That's what I use that formula
a lot. But also this knowledge of who my mom
might have been at this younger time is pouring into

my empathy towards her, because lately it's been a lot
of anger, a lot of the grief anger, a lot
of just anger from things that I'm learning that happened
or didn't happen for me in my childhood. And it
offers me this level of intimacy that is a material
of my healing, and it's necessary and I could only
touch that once she passed away. These are things that

she would that my mom's privacy wouldn't have allowed her
to necessarily share with me. But that as I know this,
I understand my mother more, which allows me to understand
myself more, which allows me to heal. And so that's
again one of the some of the goodness of grief
is that you have access to this person in a
way that you might not have ever had before, and
it gives you I feel closer than ever to my mother,

I really do.

Speaker 2 (16:54):
There's that thread of both and yep that I've been
watching unfold as you been talking about this and listening
to you now talk about this, that like all of
these things get to be true at the same time.

Speaker 1 (17:06):
Hmm, yeah, they have to be.

Speaker 2 (17:08):
They have to they have to be because they are
right like this, this is enough for like discussion, like exactly,
there's this allowing that this is actually the way that
things are, that both and is the state of existence.

Speaker 1 (17:20):
It's a place for us to be kind to ourselves.
It's an opportunity for us to be gentle with ourselves.
And when we condemn ourselves to say, but it's this,
we can say, and what else is it? And where
else is their goodness? And where else is their relief?
And where else is their possibility? It's it's really a
practice of kindness to ourselves when we give enough nuance
and breath to a conversation to be both and and

that also allows us to lean into one or another
whenever we want, knowing that there's the ebb and flow
that you'll go to the other side at some point.
So when I feel, you know, whatever shame I feel
about the relief, I feel because I no longer have
this sick mother to have to worry about and have
a loop of concern in my head at all times.

I can like actually rest with that relief because I
know that probably in about two point five days, I'm
going to be on the floor crying about the fact
that she's not here. So yes, it gives a bit
of kindness to ourselves to be able to move through
what grief is when we acknowledge and lean into the both.

Speaker 2 (18:22):
And yeah, I feel like so many people their first
experience of allowing the both andness of life comes through
an experience of loss. I feel like your kindness to
self and your choosing of yourself predates your mom's loss. Though,

Is that? Does that feel accurate?

Speaker 1 (18:44):
I think so. It's so funny. I'm happy that I'm
here during this conversation with you because it gives so
many touch points for my childhood and for my grief
in particular. And I was just going through a journal
from college from two thousand and seven of mine, and
I was like, oh, what was I thinking about? I
kept a note of how I was feeling when I'd

wake up in the morning, and I'm like, oh, I
feel so sad today, Oh, I feel really good today,
And so there seemed to be intention there around not
just acknowledging the feeling, but recalibrating me towards something that
might put me at a more comfortable, content easeful space.
I wouldn't have had that language then, but I have
it now, and I think that I did as a

mode of survival, as a mode of survival, being hyper
self aware in order to know what I need to
meet my needs.

Speaker 2 (19:38):
Yeah, you once describe your younger self as having survival optimism.

Speaker 1 (19:43):
I absolutely did. I grew up in what I now
am seeing as a fairly tumultuous place. I had gone
through my teenage years, in my early adulthood, certainly with
a narrative in my head that woven survival optimism. Of
it was fine, I was fine, Things were good, Things

weren't that bad. I did this, and that my mother
was able to do this, my father was able to
do that. And while many of the things that I
was mentioning were true, there was a lot of it
that I had discarded in order to, as we said,
survive all the negatives. There was a survival survival optimism
to say, things aren't that bad. I have what I need,

I can keep going. And part of healing for me,
I found is sitting down with those narratives. Particularly I
had one around grief and it's and I used to
say all the time that, you know, my dad really
was obsessed with me in all the best ways that
dads can be obsessed with third children, and he was

so loving and so considerate, and so I just thought
I was the most interesting, beautiful thing because my father
made me feel that way. And so when he passed
when I was eleven, all of these years later, I
was still saying the narrative like, oh, yeah, my dad passed,
but I was fine because he loved me so well,
and you know, I didn't have to grieve that much

because it was all so good before he passed. And
that was a narrative I like not only said, but
believed myself. And then someone said to me, Rachel, that
can't be true. It can't be true that he was
both the most important person in your world and you
weren't affected when he passed like that, that's impossible for
it to be true. And I thought about it. I

was like, Okay, that does sound rational.

Speaker 2 (21:34):
So it was like, oh, oh, let me be curious about.

Speaker 1 (21:38):
That about that so I my mom was alive at
the time, so I reached out to my mom and
I was like, Mom, what was I like in the
weeks after Dad passed? And she said, Rachel, I had
to take you to the hospital so many times because
you kept complaining about stomach pain and no one knew
what it was. And I was like what. One I
could not believe I didn't remember that. Two, I can't

believe me and my mother had never talked about it before.
And three I was floored because as an adult, I
know that my stomach is the number one place where
I have a reaction to something. When I'm falling in love,
when I'm scared of something, when I'm anxious about something,
it all shows up in my stomach. And I work
with my stomach now to process those emotions. It's something

I learned as an adult. But thinking about how that
eleven year old me was working with my body in
the same way, my stomach was the thing where all
of that grief was being held, and my mom didn't
think of it either. You know, my mom didn't have
enough understanding around grief, around the body, around somatics, understand, oh,
this might be something related to the grief, instead of

rushing me to the hospital every you know, every other week.
And so these narratives that I had of survival optimism
that made me believe that I've done hard things, I
can continue to do hard things, and that I will
just get through it. While it did indeed help me
get through things, there comes a time where you have
to address them because these narratives just begin to peel away.

It's like this old paint. It's like, wait, there's something
behind there that's not true. And so with that, I
started to question all the narrative I'd been telling myself,
like what else, what else have I been moving through
the world? What stories do I usually tell when people
ask me about my life? And how true are they?
And I got the chance to ask my mom a
lot of questions about what I understood to be true
about myself, about her, about my dad, about my family,

and some things just absolutely were not true. Some things
just absolutely were not true. But I had created a narrative.
And so while I'm grateful for how that tool served
me as a child, because it really did get me
through some really difficult truths about myself, that might have
drowned me in whatever depression or emotion would have negatively

impacted me. It's something that I feel grateful to have
the chance to unravel. Now.

Speaker 2 (23:51):
There's so much in there, right, because that how you
describe that survival optimism and the stories you needed to
tell in order to survive what you needed to survive.
Like that's the cultural narrative, right, like resilience and optimism
and you got this and you're strong and you can
survive this, like all of that singular trash right, sort

of singular trash as set apart or set in opposition
to the both and right singular trash versus it's the both,
and like, we do what we need to do to survive,
and that doesn't make it necessarily a good thing. It
makes us something that we read the room and we
knew what we needed and we did what we needed

to do to survive. And it's just like there's so
many interesting intersections there, I guess is where I'm going.
One that you look back now and you see that
as something you had to do to survive, but it's
something to heal from now, that story and how much
that survival optimism matches with what we tell people they're

supposed to do in the face of adversity, which is
look on the bright side, suck it up, be strong,
be powerful, draw on your own strengths. It's one of
many things I love about you.

Speaker 1 (25:05):
Thank you.

Speaker 2 (25:06):
Yeah, the both and is a hard thing to nail.
I think when we're talking about any kind of difficulty, right,
that we can lean into our strengths and celebrate our
strengths and at the same time be on the floor
crying so much we vomit. Right, Like, these things are
all true, and we get to invite that totality of self.

Speaker 1 (25:28):
Interested in knowing our whole selves are right about who
our whole selves might be. I'm I'm intrigued by that
person might be who gets to process these things, who
gets to know the truth about myself, even the hard truths.
And the thing about being adults, now, you know a
lot of that survivals in childhood where we have no
control over our environment, where we have no control over

our ability to get through something. But as adults, we
have this opportunity to be in relationship with our younger
self to say, you're now, let's talk about this. You
know you have tools to get through this, let's talk
about this, let's feel this. And I've noticed that as
I do more healing of my psyche, my emotions, my body,

which are all inner related. You know, when I'm caring
for my body, I see that my psyche is better.
When I care for my psyche, I see that I can,
you know, care for my body better. And one thing
I've really been enjoying is that I have become more
and more able to touch base with things that gave
me joy as a child because I've dusted off a

bit of my childhood and I can see some of it,
I can access some of it. And I mean, I'm
not a therapist at all, but what I've learned from
my own personal journey is that as I really look
at my childhood and have to dust some things off,
you're also cleaning off the spaces where good things are.
You know, you're not just going to this box of
bones and figuring out all the hard, terrible things that

happen in your childhood. You're also remembering that childhood rhyme
that you used to say. And you're also you know,
finding I don't know stories you used to write. And
I have a really I've been feeling very grateful for
how I'm able to tend to my inner child. You know,

one of the things that it makes me think of
is my mom was a poor, black, disabled woman who
had many children to care for, and so I certainly
didn't get the type of care that would have been
as full as if she had more resources. And so
what that means is that, you know, some of the
activities that I did, I couldn't do all the activities
that I wanted, or we couldn't afford some things, or

my mom just did what she thought was best without
taking much consideration in what I wanted per se. So
I really wanted to dance when I was younger, like
do dance classes, and I really wanted to play a
stringed instrument, and they just weren't options. So now I
have been going to tell practice and I found adult
ballet classes and things that used to be anger points

for me, like, oh, I'm so mad that I didn't
I had this type of childhood. I'm so enraged that
my mother didn't have the emotional capacity to do X
Y Z. Now with this type of knowledge and empathy,
as I mentioned, that's coming into me, I can say,
you know what I'm gonna let that anger go because
I can see that she really did her best. And
now I'm an adult and I can provide myself with

some of those things. How can I do that? And
it feels like I'm in relationship with my mom for
that too. I played soccer a lot when I was younger,
and my mom she she came to watch me, Like
I said, she had polio so she couldn't run, so
her watching me run was something for her. She loved
to watch me run up and down the field. She
would say that often, and since she had crutches on
rainy days or early mornings when it was dewey, she

couldn't get to the field. And my mom position petitioned
for the city to build a sidewalk from the parking
lot to the soccer field so that she could watch
me play. And they did. And I recently ran into
an old friend who's like, Oh, I'm coaching a women's
extracurricular soccer team in the city. You should join. It's like, oh,
my gosh, I would love to join. And that has

now become something between me and my mom, Like I
feel like my mom is on the sidelines with her
sign the way that she used to the way that
she couldn't always. And it's nice to carry myself and
be in relationship with my mother in a way that
just couldn't have happened when she was here.

Speaker 2 (29:29):
There's such continuity in the way that you talk about
all of this. I also remember reading that you said
when you were when you were a kid, sort of
writing was your power, right, your ability to tell stories
and to be a writer was your power. And I
feel like there's there's so much weaving through what we're

talking about around storytelling and narrative and voice and the
stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell each other,
and how much authority right, authority, all their ship right, sovereignty, sovereignty, authority,
author who gets to write the story of your life?

And which voice is speaking at any time? Like it's
just like, as as a fellow writer, I just I
think that's such fascinating and beautiful territory when you allow
the entire story to show up and then it's terrifying,
it's terrifying and it's terrible and honestly, like, what else

is there? Right? Because if you're not telling your own story,
whose story are you telling?

Speaker 1 (30:38):
Yes? While you were speaking earlier about the way that
society insists that we just move past it, get through it.
While you were saying that, I was I was thinking
to myself, like, to who's end and does that benefit?
It benefits capitalism because we're getting back to work, And
benefits patriarchy because we're getting back to taking care of

our homes and our children. It benefits, you know, just
every standard that is meant to benefit other entities besides
ourselves and certainly besides our own healing. And so I
think it's really wonderful to take a pause and when
we're moving through a hard thing, to ask ourselves to

what ends does this? Who does this benefit? How does
it benefit them? And what of myself do I have
to quiet in order to meet that need or in
order to meet that expectation. It makes me think of
a friend. A thing my friend Dana Sue Cow used
to always say, is who's benefiting from the insecurities you have?

You know a lot of things like oh, I'm so
insecure that by that I have hair on my legs.
And so now there's some razor company making millions of
dollars off of something that really isn't a concern.

Speaker 2 (31:50):
Or Yeah, these manufactured insecurities.

Speaker 1 (31:54):
Factured insecurity, and I think I'm seeing that play into
my grief of who benefits from the way that I
show up in this space, the way that I engage
with this feeling, and what role has this feeling had
in other spaces, in indigenous spaces, spaces from places on
the continent of Africa where I know my ancestors come from.

What does the ancestral connection with this particular experience that
I could be in relationship with. Yeah, like you say,
being curious and asking questions that invite us to know
ourselves better.

Speaker 2 (32:37):
Hey, before we get back to my conversation with Rachel Kargle,
I want to talk with you about that both and
we've been getting into. Grief can cause such like emotional whiplash. Right,
you feel relieved, and then you feel guilty for being relieved,
and then you're not sure how you feel. It's really
tough stuff to navigate. If you've got questions about how
that both and works in your own grief, come talk

to me about it. Once a month, I hold a
live video Q and A for patrons. Visit patreon dot com.
Backslash Megan Divine to get your questions answered once a
month every month. Link is in the show Notes Friends.
All right, back to my conversation with Rachel Cargle. There's
so much picking to be done at the institutionalized structure

around emotional reality, which is a big mouthful, but like
who benefits from us pushing through grief faster, pushing through
discomfort faster? Like why I spent so much of the
you know, the first ten years of my career doing
this grief work, talking about individual grief, and like, you
don't care about the bigger stuff when your kid dies

or your sister gets sick. And I remember when my
partner first died. I mean I had been doing social
action stuff and working in sexual violence and questioning some
of these things, and then Matt drowned, and I was like,
I don't give a fuck. I don't care about the
systems right now. And it took years before I cared

about that, or or before I cared enough to come
back to my suspicious, questioning nature of the underlying systems
around everything. And it is true that I think sometimes
in really fresh grief, the structures that impact you in
your grieving or in your healing aren't super relevant it

doesn't mean we aren't being impacted by them though, Like
this push to get better faster and to be strong
and to be resilient. I love flipping that around the
way that you just did to say, like, who benefits
from me getting quote unquote better faster? Who is served?
Who gets their needs met? If I repress mine?

Speaker 1 (34:46):
Yeah, that exactly. I really like what you said about
how long it took you to get back to that.
One of the things that I have been leaning into
is that I am grieving. So I'm going to use
it as a platform to be as thoughtful as I
need to in this moment because death, loss, change causes

us to question reality again, and we don't get that
often because usually we're in the you know, in the
run of it. We got to go to work, pay
our bills, take care of our kids, move through. We're
on this life escalator that really isn't much space to
get off, and grief is a stop. Grief is a
large halt to that. And so it's an opportunity in

that it's a moment where we really do get to
ask questions and take a pause to things that we
usually don't get to to do. So and it's certainly
been that for me, around work, around relationships, around friendships,
around space. What I understand is home. You know, all
of these things. And I really find that as one

of the gifts of grief as well, that it put
a halt to this trajectory that I might have forever
been on if there wasn't this jolting to say, wait,
what really matters? How do I really want to spend
my time? How do I want to die? How do
I want to be surrounded or not surrounded in hard
times like these? And I have been making shifts based

on what that pause required me to consider, required me
to question. And I hope that all of us who
are grieving can alchemize some of those feelings we have
to turn into some answers to questions we've either been
asking ourselves quietly in the back of our mind, never
got to ask ourselves, or are recognizing, like, wow, this

is something I really need to consider before I hop
back on this escalator.

Speaker 2 (36:49):
There's a line that I read of yours who I
am right now can be home for me. It's actually
a much longer passage. And of course I'll link to
the Instagram post where you talk about that. But that's
what I'm reminded of as you speak about this, like
it's not that you needed air quotes here for everybody,
Like it's not that you needed your mom's death to

wake you up to other things that you wanted or
needed for your own pacing or your own concepts of home.
And at the same time, your mom's death has shifted
your focus and shifted things. So it's not like I
think again we get gain like it gets sort of
flattened in the outside world around. Oh see, you needed it.
You needed it as a wake up call to know

what was important, which is like, oh, but I really
appreciate how you speak about it as this, Like here
is this thing, this event that happened, and I can
bring my skills of curiosity and reflection and self inquiry

from a place of kindness into even this, especially this,
especially this, and find out who I am now as
a person whose mom is no longer physically present in
this way, how does home change? What does home look like?
For me? Like? These are such fantastic questions. There are

such fun quest questions, and I'm so thankful to you
for asking them and asking them publicly and encouraging other
people to ask them because we just don't. We don't
have enough spaces where we are encouraged to have that
both and and to ask ourselves those questions, especially kindly. Right,
I think it's like easy to like flip into interrogation. Look,

murder was a little budget Like, No, everything you do
is just steeped in so much kindness.

Speaker 1 (38:41):
Thank you. I appreciate that. I think that might rebuttal
to what you said about what people might say, like, oh,
you need this thing. It reminds me of what we
do about the pandemic, and people say like, oh, because
of the pandemic, I was able to do this, which
I understand. It's hard, especially with people who lost someone
during the pandemic. Of course, there's no desire to hear
any good that could have Yeah no good, Yeah, no good.

And I get it, and I honor that. I honor
that feeling. And when we have a loss, we are
a different person. So there have to be new answers,
there have to be new questions, there have to be
new some things. And throughout our lives, mostly other people
have decided that, and sometimes it's the person who passed

who decided. In my case, my mother who decided so
much about what I understand about myself. You know, when
my mom first got her diagnosis, I remember wailing and wailing,
laying in the lap of a woman, the woman I
was dating at the time, and saying, how will I
ever read if the person who taught me how to
read is dying? How will I ever walk if the

person who taught me how to walk is dying? It
felt like her leaving took away everything I understood about
myself and the world, and in her passing this pause
to say who am I to me is profound and
terrifying as well, both profound and terrifying to say, who

am I? With everything she gave me and with everything
she couldn't, Who am I with everything I know about
myself now and everything she reminds me about myself? And
there is this newness emerging that requires questions, and I
hope that we don't shy away from those questions because

they offer us some calibration towards where we're going next.
And So, while you didn't need a loss to make
you think you're a new person, and that makes you
think not necessarily the loss itself, but the fact that
you are different, because that person is no longer physically
there with you. It's a call to make new considerations.

Speaker 2 (40:48):
Yeah, I love that you just used to the word call,
because I was going to go with call and response, right,
like that sort of external structure of this linear healing model, right,
the future self, the highest self, the healed self, like
that destination point.

Speaker 1 (41:05):
And I am so happy that you brought this up
because I've been evangelizing this so much, this idea of
your chosen self, that it's not this higher, better self.
You weren't previously a lower, worse self. It's just the
you that you continue to choose. And so every day
that can be either reinforced, it can be changed, it

can be shape shifted a little bit, it can be
edited a bit. Because you're getting new information every day,
You're having new understandings about yourself every day, so that
should and will continue to change. But the only self
that needs to be that energy needs to be put
towards is your chosen self, who you choose to be.
And maybe in your grief, your chosen self is someone

who's a little more reserved and spending a little bit
more time to yourself, and maybe it's someone who's all
of a sudden becoming a bit more community centered since
you have had a loss. Whatever it is across the
spectrum of possibilities, the fact that you chose it is
what makes it the best self.

Speaker 2 (42:06):
Sovereignty, authority over your own life, being the author of
your own life, and choosing.

Speaker 1 (42:12):
And I say your best self is your highest service.
When you step into your best self, you are now
primed to be kinder, to be gentler, to have more capacity,
to be more honest, to be more grounded, and so
trying to be all of those things in little pockets
to people please will never be as effective as just

settling with yourself, considering what your values are, moving with
your intentions, and you will certainly show up better for
the world when you have really settled with your chosen self.

Speaker 2 (42:49):
And that's so counter to the messaging that we get
right of like, serve others, serve others, serve others, And
you really do need to choose yourself in order to
be of the most service to the world and creating
the world that can also serve you. Right, both and
both and all over the place. I want to make

sure we have a little bit of time to talk
about your new book and I think the both and
is actually a really great transition here, because writing writing
a book is a really long process. So I'm guessing
that the creation, the writing, the editing, all of the
before launch stuff with a book like that came during

your mom's illness. I don't know how it intersected with
her death, but how has this grief experienced, this loss
experience And I'm saying that rather than only the death
of your mom, because so much has fed into that
and mixed with that, how has that both ended with
the birth of your new book.

Speaker 1 (43:56):
I signed this book deal in twenty eighteen. It's been
a lot time of me working on this book, and
it was in the midst of the book that I
had that first moment of I want to call it consciousness,
but I don't really like that word because it seems
so inaccessible or something. But my first moment of deeper
consideration about who I'd been, who I was, and who

I want to choose to be. And so in the
original manuscript where a lot of those survival optimism narratives
that I had written, so I had to go back
and change them, and I also engaged with the topics
a bit different. So the book is arranged in various

chapters that speak to different ways of reimagining. The book
is a memoir and a manifesto talking about reimagining, and
it's reimagining love, reimagining education, reimagining feminism, and looking at
all of the ways that I approached these aspects of
life a little different with my own values and intentions,

and every single one of those were so informed by
what my mom either told me about myself or told
me was right in the world based on her own
religion of Christianity, and so there was a lot of
having to comb through the narrative and see what I
had come up with myself out of survival and what

was actually true. Another thing that was particularly related to
my mother and the book is that in coming to
a lot of these conclusions and understandings about myself, there
were some things in the book that I knew my
mom might feel shame about. Particularly, I have two older
sisters who both still since when I was in high

school to this day, have been their whole lives have
been ravished by addiction, and my mom always was very
disheartened by the distance I had to take from my
sisters in order to be okay, and so I think
I also had a lot of anxiety about how she

might feel about reading what I felt about my sisters,
her children, her children. And a few weeks before my
mother passed, I sat by her bed in the hospice
center she was in and I read her a little
chunk of the book that was clear enough for me
that was like, there wouldn't be too much tension in

what I read to her. And the one thing I
will say is I read it to my mom, and
my mom says, wow, that was so much better than
I thought it would be, Like, Okay, thanks, Mom, I'm
actually a writer and I do.

Speaker 2 (46:42):
So one.

Speaker 1 (46:43):
It was that funny aspect of her really still not
having any clue what I do in the world or
how I do my work, but also the fact that
she passed just a few weeks after it and just
a few months before the book's published date. They talk
a lot about authors who usually can't get the book
out until the person who they're really addressing in the

book has passed because there's all of these anxieties about
if they read it, how they'll feel. So I think
that definitely came into play. That was a truth for me.
For sure, because I don't know if I could move
with the confidence that I do with the book if
I knew that my mom would have to read it
but also deal with however other people feel about it
is written in the book. So I'm grateful that I

don't have to have that experience that was giving me
a lot of anxiety. But I also wish that she
could be here for the excitement of the book coming out.
There's that both and as well. But I will say
going back to that first story about her still not
really knowing about the work that I do, the fact
that I have the desire and the capacity to write

about grief in the way that I do, to share
it with my readers, to be in conversation with my readers.
This is the first time it feels like my mom
is in my work, knows she's she is my work
right now for the first time in a way that
she never was. She's in it how me and her
engage in my dreams, in my body, in the seemingly

supernatural things that go on in my world that seem
in relation to her. This is the first time that
I feel like my mom is deeply engaged with my
work and I love that.

Speaker 2 (48:25):
That's really cool. I hadn't thought about that. I really
dig that, you know, as somebody who will probably not
publish a lot of things until after my parents die
for those those same reasons. I love that though, that
there is a way now that you can be seen,
you know. I think sometimes we think that like death
ends a relationship, and what you're describing is like new

rooms in that relationship open up all the time.

Speaker 1 (48:48):
All the time, and it's to shape shifts. And that's
also why grieving has to be done, because that's where
the relationship continues. If you skip that, you're missing out
on opportunities to continue to build that relationship. You know.
I had like a deep breakdown moment the other day
because I was thinking about so many things about my

mom that came up and could only have come up
during her passing. And one thing that I was just
like crying and crying and crying about is that my
mother didn't really like to travel. She didn't travel much.
The only stamp in her but she got her passport
a year before she passed, and that's because I invited
her to come visit me in Jamaica. And she has

one stamp in that passport, which was her visiting me
in Jamaica, and my mom had never been out of
the country before. So I remember during her dying, I
was so stressed because I'm like, this woman doesn't even
like to leave the city. She must be terrified to die.
Like it's rib like, just think, just think about how

excruciatingly scary that must have been for her to sit
on that bed and be like, I have no clue
where I'm going. Yeah, that's in the sentence. I have
no clue where I'm going outside of her beliefs and
where she hoped she was going, but we just don't know.
And so you know, I had this deep wailing cry

of sadness for her, and then I had this moment
of like, oh my gosh, I'm so proud of her.
She did the one thing we are all terrified to do,
we are all terrified to die, and my mom did
this badass thing of like doing it. I know my
mother and well enough to know that she literally had
a moment to be like, you know what, I'm just

gonna go, like I gotta let this. Like she had
been fighting it so hard over her last few weeks
to the point where I was like, Mom, just go.
You are hating every moment of this. We are hating
every moment of this. We're so proud of everything that
you've done. Just go. Like many people, she passed the
one night I decided to stay the night at home

instead of stay the night on the floor of the
hospice like I had been doing. And I remember I
was here at my house that evening with a lover
of mine and I remember holding on to her torso
we were like kind of sitting on the couch and
I was like kind of hugging her, and I remember
just feeling so dizzy. I felt like I was in
some sort of wild vortex. And I'm like, it could

have been anything. It could have been the exhaustion, it
could have been the grief. But I think my mom
was dying in that moment like that if we look
at the timeline that was about the time, and I
just feel like she was. There was some part of
her that was still like sticky to me, kind of
sticky on me, that was keeping me. Like I feel
like I went into this like the spin of it

with her, and just the depths of both of the feelings,
the depth of grief that she was terrified of it,
and the depth of pride that I have for her
to do that, and her having died, and you know,
now she doesn't have a body that she can't walk with.
I hope my mom is doing cart wheel and running
and doing all of these things that she never got

to do. And I'm so happy for her, Like I'm
so happy for her that she's not dealing with the
things that she was dealing with here, and you know,
the things about the living that constrain us. You know,
how she might have felt about having a queer daughter,
how she might have related to me based on whatever
are the rules of the world she didn't want to

break or she didn't want me to break. Those no
longer apply. So that means that I can have a
particular joy in my relationships. I can have a particular
conversation with her that if I had it with her before,
she would have felt so much shame about what her
sister might have felt or what her mother might have felt.
And I feel like this is such a beautiful, excruciating

shape of us that I don't take for granted and
that I actively participate in because it is something different
and it's something new, and it's something that I'm grateful for,
the shapeshift of a relationship from her being here physically
to not.

Speaker 2 (53:04):
You get to have a totality of relatedness. Right. As
devastating as this is, there is the end of that
sounds so like such a blessing, like such a liberation. Right,
And to come back to your book like that's a renaissance, right,

that is a relationship renaissance, yes, for me and thriving exactly. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (53:32):
Yes, the title of the book is a renaissance of
our own memoir and manifesto on reimagining. And if the
book hadn't been on the deadline that it was, I
think I would have had a chapter called Reimagining Grief
because there is such a difference in how I have
been able to approach it that seems to not follow

the guidelines of society of science. Even that invites me
to have a different reallylationship to my grief and my mother.

Speaker 2 (54:02):
Yeah, and that through line right of curiosity for self,
the chosen self, authoring your own life, inquiring with kindness
but also with like, with your own narratives. Like all
of this is that arc of coming closer and closer
to that chosen self by being curious about the stories

of ourselves and others, and ourselves in relationship with others,
and that that is what's possible. Right in the promotion
for your book, you have written, I stand as living
proof that a life reimagined is possible, proof that with
a willingness to do the work, to make peace with
the unknown, and to believe that we are worth the effort,
there is a renaissance that awaits. Yeah, I think this.

This feels like such a hopeful a hopeful place in
this both and like devastation and renaissance and choosing yourself.
So I think I think it's set s. It's up
pretty well for my asked question for us here together,
which is knowing what you know and living what you've
lived in all of the stories of your life. What
does hope look like for you right now?

Speaker 1 (55:15):
For me, hope is really rooted in the same things
we've been talking about, hope that I have and will
continue to have the opportunity to cultivate tools to be
well with myself and with the rest of the world

that I live in the land, my community, my oppressors,
my joys, space place. I think as we lean into
our healing. We all have what me and my peers,
we've been sitting around eating pasta together talking about what
our squishy thing is. When we talk about what we

build about building up walls. Those walls are to protect
some squishy thing, and that squishy thing usually was created
in childhood. And for me, my squishy thing is autonomy.
I didn't have a lot of it as a child,
and so now that is the that's my squishy thing
that I'm constantly trying to protect. And in both I

think I'll say psychology because I feel like I've heard
it a lot in more scientific academic text, but also
in mainstream conversation. It's always like, break your walls down,
break your walls down, figure out how to not have walls.
And I am now feeling more hopeful than ever for
my own goodness and wellness and for my ability to

show up in the world, because I no longer feel
like I have to break those walls down. I just
have to know them. I have to honor them, and
I have to maintain them because they were there to
protect something and I want to still protect that thing.
But I can do it by this self study, this
self understanding, this intention of being my chosen self, and
so I feel very hopeful by this being broken, the

brokenness that came from and continues to exist because of
losing my mother. There's only up to go. It's one
of those like I feel. I feel like right now
I'm in the worst part of my life. I keep
telling my friends, if this isn't the worst, I swear
I've missed, this better be the worst, or I'm going

to be livid. And so, you know, for all the
days I wake up in the morning crying, for all
the times I fallen to the floor in the kitchen
in the middle of cooking a meal because a memory
came up, and all of the times that I've pushed
people away because I just didn't know how to grieve
in community, and all the times that I have, you know,

just been undone in the way that life happens. I
am tending to my squishy part, and that's the only
thing I can control. Nothing else. Really. I can't control
what the governments do. I can't control what racism, capitalism,
all of these things, how these ways are showing up.
I can't control how my neighbor, my lover, my family

remember what they do, or how they feel. But I
feel very hopeful about the work that I'm doing on
supporting and leaning into myself, and there's there's some hope there.

Speaker 2 (58:20):
There are so many ways that I want to go
with that, but I also want to respect your time,
So I'm not going to dive into all of those things,
but I so much look forward to listening to you
explore those things and share them with the world.

Speaker 1 (58:32):
Yes, I will be doing I learned that I also
do these things out loud. It feels true for me
and natural for me to do that. And that's another
thing with healing. You just you accept what's true for you,
and you no longer get stressed about how other people
feel about them. You just can answer like, oh, yeah,
that's my truth. I've really looked into it and I
know it's true for me. So I'm just going to
keep going this way. And so I think that might

be a little bit of hope too, that when you
know yourself, when you continue to look into yourself, you
can have a truth that you can kind of stand
more firmly with.

Speaker 2 (59:01):
Yeah, I love all these things. Okay, it has been
such a joy and such an honor to talk with you.
Now we're going to link to your website, the Loveland Foundation,
which we didn't get to talk about today, but we'll
be in the show notes, and obviously to your new
book and your bookstore and all of the things. But
is there anything else you want people to know about
where to find you or what's coming up.

Speaker 1 (59:19):
No, I'm just working on a lot of opportunities to gather.
So I hope people continue to follow and look for
ways that we can get together virtually and in person
around grief, around generational conversations, around knowing ourselves. I'm looking
forward to being and more conversation with people virtually and
sharing space in the same room.

Speaker 2 (59:41):
Excellent. I cannot wait to see what happens next. All right, everybody,
stay tuned. We will be back with your questions to
carry with you right after this break. I leave you
with some questions to carry with you until we meet again. Now,

Rachel said something, Okay, she said a lot of things,
but something that really stuck with me about how we
revisit our past, Like usually it's this excavation of awfulness, right,
like searching for the places that you didn't get enough
or things were terrible. Rachel said, I look at my childhood,
and I have to dust some things off. When you

do that, you're not just going to the box of
bones and figuring out all the hard, terrible things that
happened in your childhood. You're also clearing off the spaces
where good things are. I love that. It's part of
that curiosity we talked about so much together, coming to
your own personal story with like not with this like

rabid bloodhound approach of rooting out the ways that things
shaped you in a negative way, but with a gentleness,
an openness, and a kindness and a curiosity about how
the story of your life has shaped you. It's such
a gentler way of being with yourself, right. I love it.

You don't have to be a bloodhound excavating terrible things.
You can be a curious, gentle explorer of your own life.
How about you? What stuck with you from this conversation.
Everybody's going to take something different from the show, but
I do hope you found something to hold on too.

If you want to tell me how today's show felt
for you, or you have thoughts on what we covered,
let me know. Tag at Refuge and Grief on all
the social platforms so I can hear how this episode
affected you, and remember to leave a review too.

Speaker 1 (01:01:40):

Speaker 2 (01:01:41):
This season's guests are incredible and reviews are a great
way to let me know how this season feels to you.
Follow the show at its Okay pod on TikTok and
Refuge and Grief Everywhere else. To see video clips from
the show, use the hashtag It's Okay pod on all
all the platforms, so not only can I find you,

but others can too. Conversations are important. None of us
are entirely okay right now, and it's time we start
talking about that together. Yeah, it's okay that you're not okay.
You're in good company. That's it for this week. Remember
to subscribe to the show and share it with the

people you love. Coming up next week, everybody the original
climate activist author Bill mckibbon. Follow the show on your
favorite platforms so you do not miss an episode. Want
more on these topics, Look, grief is everywhere. As my
dad says, daily life is full of everyday grief that

we don't call grief. Learning how to talk about all
that without accidentally grief, gaslighting somebody or gaslighting yourself, that
is an important skill for everyone. It helped to have
those conversations with trainings, professional resources, and my best selling book,
It's Okay that You're Not Okay. At Megandivine dot Co.

It's Okay that You're Not Okay. The podcast is written
and produced by me Megan Divine. Executive producer is Amy Brown,
co produced by Elizabeth Fozzio. Logistical and social media support
from Micah, Post production and editing by Houston Tilley. Show
notes and research support from our fabulous intern Hannah Goldman.
Music provided by Wave Crush and background noise this time

provided by The Big Crows tap dancing on the metal,
awning outside my window. Hi Crows,
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